A Conversation with Death

Prompt Day #286: Begin a story in the chapel of a hospital


A Conversation with Death

                Wendy walked into the hospital chapel. There was no one in it at three thirty in the afternoon. It was quiet and dark, the only light was a multicolored beam shining through the single stained glass window. She sat on a chair and bowed her head. She would pray of course, but right now, she just need to slow the racing thoughts in her head. Put them into some sense of order, sort fact from conjecture, the known from the unknown and only then could she pray.

What she knew: Jeff was a healthy forty-three year old man. He ran marathons and played on an amateur ice hockey team. Fact: Jeff left for work at seven as usual. Did he kiss her goodbye? He usually did but this morning she was running late and wasn’t downstairs when he left. It was only conjecture then to assume he had before heading downstairs. Had she told him she loved him? Again, nothing more than an assumption that she did as she always had. Fact number two: Jeff never made it to work. She received a call from his office exactly thirty minutes before the call from the police. She began to cry. Fact number three: Jeff crossed the median, Jeff hit the van head on. Unknown: What happened to him to make him do that? She was sobbing. The doctor had mentioned something about a large pool of blood in his head. Conjecture: That Jeff had a large aneurysm burst in his head which made him cross the median and hit the van. That is just the doctor’s theory she assured herself. They would take him to surgery and see that it was the accident that caused the bleed and that could be fixed.

This wasn’t helping, no matter how she tried to lay out the sequence neatly, her mind kept jumping to the final outcome: Jeff in the OR with a brain bleed that may or may not be able to be controlled. And even if they could stop it, no one knew if he would ever come out of this intact. She fell to her knees.

“God, please let the doctors find the source of the bleeding. Please guide their hands and help them heal him.”

“Do you believe in God?” A deep but quiet voice asked interrupting her prayer. She looked up and saw an older black man sitting two rows behind her. He had a brown hooded sweatshirt with the hood up. It was a heavy duty one, lined for outdoor work. His legs stretched out in front of him and his hands were buried in his hoodie pockets. Wendy crinkled her brow.

“Of course I do. Why else would I be here?” She asked.

“Some people get desperate in these situations.” He said

“Well, not me. I’ve been a Christian all my life. A good one.” Why was she even explaining this to him? “Now, if you don’t mind.” She bowed her head and continued in silence.

“Do you believe in God’s will?” He asked, as if she hadn’t just dismissed him.

“Yes. Of course I do!” she said angrily, then reeled it in. “Yes. I do. But I also believe God can do miracles, he grants second chances all the time.” She fought back tears. She didn’t want him to see her like this. This man who had no business in this chapel.

“Does he? How do you know?”

“Because I have faith. Sir, I’m sorry, but really, my husband was in a terrible accident this morning and he is in surgery right now. I came here for peace, to ask for healing. Please, leave me be.”

“Why do you pray for healing? Why do you not pray for peace for your husband?” He asked. His voice bore no emotion, its emptiness drew her curiosity, and she found herself considering his questions carefully.

“Well, because I love him and I don’t want to lose him yet. He is so young, he has his whole life ahead of him yet. I know he isn’t ready to die.” She said, pleased with her answer.

“And if God grants your request to let Jeff live but he must live a life now without purpose, one that was meant to end today…will he be at peace? Will he live a full life or will he be a shell, a lost soul trapped on Earth?” He asked

“No, no, it isn’t like that. It wouldn’t be like that. He has a family, he will have grandchildren someday. He wants to live.” She couldn’t fathom what he was implying.

“You only know what he wanted up until today. You want him to live for your own benefit, but perhaps he is lying on that table awaiting release, awaiting peace because it is his time.” She could only shake her head at this. No. She wouldn’t listen to him anymore. Was she wrong for asking God to let her keep Jeff for longer? She paused. The man had called him Jeff, but she was fairly certain she’d never used Jeff’s name in their conversation.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? You came to the chapel too, you must be here for the same reason I am, aren’t you praying for someone?” She asked

“I am here for the same reason you are. Jeffrey Allan O’Connor. I happened to hear your pleas and it intrigued me. I’ve always tried to understand the idea of asking your God to change his will for you, as if your plan is more important than His.”

“How do you know my husband?” Wendy demanded. She had a terrible idea that she already knew his answer but that, she told herself was just conjecture.

“His name was on a work order I received this morning.” He stood up. He was much taller than she’d originally surmised. His jacket was now a black hooded cape. He held up a scroll. There was Jeff’s name and below it, his birth date. There was a dash and then today’s date.

The small contraption she’d been given in the surgical waiting room began to buzz and flash. The surgeon was paging her back to speak to him. She looked down and then back up at the man but he was gone. She left the chapel and headed towards the surgery suite taking her time. She knew what the surgeon was about to tell her and she wanted to put off the news as long as she could.